Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Boston Strong: Boston Marathon 2014

Boston Marathon was not on my bucket list (and I have one, which has been updated umpteenth times and is now in the nth version). I completed Berlin Marathon 2010, enjoyed it as I crossed the line in about 3:37. What I did not know was 7,700-plus runners were ahead of me. Talk about depth of field in European marathons!
So, after two BQs later I took the lottery (after an excited yet excruciating wait of several days), waited a couple of weeks, and I was stoked when I was admitted into the 118th edition of the race. Friends who had completed the 2012 edition assured me that my margin of difference would be highly certain.
What did I enjoy about the Boston Marathon?
1)    It was special, as I felt I was celebrating not only a personal journey, however a shared one. One million spectators, 20,000 marathoners, and an entire city - an extended family.
2)    The days leading up to the marathon was extensively covered on the local television network. It was scary, courageous, and inspirational. The resilience, recovery and optimism was ever-present and ubiquitous. Very touching!
3)    When I walked back to the hotel, okay, as I limped back to the hotel, the locals congratulated me on my achievement. I felt like a champion – something never experienced at home. I was deemed an idiot back home for doing the 42.195km (it is a cultural matter).
4)    Most memorable moment: Running the Boston course.
5)    Next most memorable moment: Kissed by the Wellesley Girls. Admittedly, I was hesitant to approach them however I yielded to massive peer pressure from other runners (who were obviously having too golden a time).
6)    Running alongside fast runners in my Pen (‘That will do, Pig. That will do…’). Some were so comfortably attired in t-shirt and shorts, yet flew past the first downhill 10km. It is not the look or appearance, but the fact that these were amazing age-grouper who qualified by the strength of their performance. Respect!
7)    The warm-up/warming tents with hot cocoa and coffee. They also dispensed energy-gels.
8)    Meeting Boston-veteran, entrepreneur, and Primo-Coolness Celene Loo (a Harvard graduate) who was reading a magazine while waiting for her turn in the pen: ‘Enjoy the race. Time to celebrate!’ She was business-like correct. I had earned my way there, so respect the runners and the race, and complete it comfortably.
9)    Most golden and inspiring moment: When a few ladies said to me: ‘Thank you for saving our city!’ I had to hold back my emotions.
10) The organisation of the event (in its entirety) was efficient, effective and exciting. I heard The Hoyts speak and run for the last time. The race exhibitors were generous with sampling and friendly. I felt that we were truly among friends.
What would I have done differently?

a)    I would have pre-booked accommodation in advance. I sat on my hands which developed sole-like callouses.
b)    Accommodation is very costly nearer the Finishing Line. This extends to a 5km radius. My room cost me US$250 per night. (But it was worth every dollar).
c)    I would focus on running the route faster on my second, and subsequent attempts. It is a world-class course and it is not easy or the faint-of-heart. A must-do in the Marathon World Series - done in any order.
d)    I would stock up more of Trader Joe’s foods, and bring more home (short of it akin to smuggling and becoming a sub-distributor).
e)    Too cold! I was freezing and shivering. After using the porta-loos, I had to re-queue to use it again. I will be higher in body-fat count next year.
f)      I will certainly do more (uphill) hill-runs, strength-work, core-stability enhancements, and run with faster runners.
g)    Not my best time, or even near my BQ, but 32 minutes off my best performance was not too shabby. You can assure me later (I hope).
Would I do it again? Absolutely. As surely as I would love to drink the special edition beers of Samuel Adams*. Not during the run, although it would be a splendid idea. (Note to self: Add to Bucket List). As definitely as I would bring a camera to take we-fies and selfies with the Girls from Wellesley. And, as badly as my grammar and sentence construction (destruction) have been in this paragraph.

Next stop: Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2015, in July. I will ensure every footfall matters and translates into better performance. I just booked my flights  30 minutes ago with frequent-flyer points and dollars-in-taxes. Nevertheless, we will prevail. Okay, that was my Morgan-Freeman moment and minor misuse of artistic licence.

Thus, I wish the very best to you at the 119th edition of the Boston Marathon. Best of running, and enjoy your experience on Patriots Day! One million spectators lining the street from start to end, is a major motivation for any runner present.

*Time for more visualization, and a bottle of chilled Samuel Adams Boston Lager.


Bruce R. Mendelsohn said...

Thanks for this, Enrico. The Boston Marathon has evolved from the world's signature marathon--the benchmark for all marathoners--to a celebration of liberty, freedom, and the melting pot that is America, and that is running. Having run it myself in 2014 (my 18th marathon), and following my experiences at the Finish Line in 2013, the Boston marathon will always be special to me.

Enrico Varella said...

Thanks for yours, Bruce. Was touching this piece up when your comment came in. Not an easy share (due to friends who could not complete it), yet also very inspired to do so. Congratulations on your 18 finishes - you are amazing! Hope to meet you next year in the 120th edition.